The future is always littered with obstacles. But here in Honduras, where unemployment is rampant and political instability is rising, the challenges of the future can seem insurmountable.
One of the best ways to tackle this insecurity is armed with a high school education. In Honduras, public education is free and required up until grade seven. While there have been some government reforms guaranteeing this free and required education until grade ten, these reforms have not taken place yet in the region of Copán, the most economically underdeveloped in the country. This means that many children and their parents make the decision to stop their education after grade six.
This decision often stems from financial reasons. Once a child reaches that pivotal moment, they may feel that they don’t want to spend the money necessary to continue their education. More importantly, they often feel that they would be able to help their family better by finding a job. This is often true in the short term. Many families in our community are supported by older children who supplement the low and unreliable wages of their parents. But when a child stays out of high school, they are putting themselves at a higher risk even beyond missing out on an education.
When children stay out of school, they are more likely to be exploited by their employers or certain family members. They are more likely to pursue unhealthy relationships and end up as a teenage parent. Their health is at risk and they are in danger of developing some of the common conditions that economically disadvantaged people suffer in this region, specifically gastro-intestinal diseases related to poor diet, periods of time without eating, and high stress levels. Their odds of ever attaining a decent wage are despairingly slim.
This is not to say that none of these risks are present for children who attend high school. These are still big and very real challenges that our kids at Casita face. But high school gives something important – time. Time to focus on math, Spanish, and history. Time to play sports, make new friends, share stories on the walk home from school. Time to be a kid for just a bit longer. And postponing the age that kids enter the “real world” in terms of employment and relationships can mean the difference between a life trapped in poverty and a life with options. A high school education doesn’t guarantee anything. To get ahead in this climate, you still need to be hardworking, brave, and a bit lucky. But a high school education moves the starting line significantly forward.
The cost of high school may seem marginal to someone from outside Honduras, but attending high school costs about $150 for tuition, uniform, and supplies and there are ongoing costs of food, transportation, and homework.
We’ve been preparing for this challenge as our Casita kids have been growing up. That’s why we are excited to announce that seven of our Casita kids will be enrolled in high school this year. Members of the IPA Rotary Club in Washington have pledged their support and generously donated tuition fees, school supplies, and uniforms to get them started.
This is where our staff in training program comes in. Our “practicantes” have been hard at work this summer, supporting our staff and kids and earning a scholarship to high school. These jobs will continue as after-school jobs. Each participating student will earn about $7.50 a week ($30 a month) that they must self-manage and use to pay for any addition school fees, homework costs, transportation, and snacks. This scholarship will significantly reduce the fears that many parents face in terms of their economic responsibility and will help the students focus on their studies.
Some of our students still have sponsors who will continue to support them in the coming year. But we are looking for sponsors for Gilma and Leydi, two sisters who are headed to seventh grade and prepared to be the first in their family to complete high school. We have two sponsorship levels, one at $30 that would cover the direct costs of the scholarship. The second option is a full scholarship at $60 that would include the ongoing support that Casita Copan provides, such as healthy lunches, access to medical care, the chance to participate in educational activities and field trips, and the daily support of our dedicated staff. If you are interested in sponsoring, please check out our sponsorship page by clicking here.
We can’t wait to keep you updated on the progress of our Casita kids!